Sunday, December 30, 2007

The end of the year is just around the corner. . .

December was a busy month with lots of parties and programs. I was kept really busy, but looking back, I enjoyed all of it. I got to celebrate with family, friends, and co-workers. I've managed to put on some extra weight (that was not intentional, but the sweets have been - - and still are - - so hard to resist). I already know what one of my New Year's resolutions has to be!

It was so nice to have Heidi and Chad, plus Brian, here from Seattle. It was a lot of driving for them, and Heidi used two weeks of her vacation time, but I think they thought it was worth it. They returned safely on Friday. You can read about Heidi on her blog.

I've had some international phone conversations with Hans and Rachel. In fact, Hans and I talked this morning before I left for church. The kids are fine, and they finally have an Internet connection in their apartment. Rachel has updated her blog today with lots of darling photos of my beautiful grand children. I really missed her new posts.

Peder has posted new photos on his blog today as well. I sure enjoyed having them over for Christmas. Little Aurelia is so sweet. Hopefully I'll get to see her again soon.

I have to work tomorrow and then I'm invited to a New Year's Eve party. Except for church "night watch" services, I've never been to a party on New Year's eve. It sounds like fun!
I wish all of my readers a very Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas with My Kids

Heidi, Chad and Brian drove from Seattle to spend Christmas with family and friends. Yesterday they, as well as Peder, Sarah, and Aurelia, came to my home celebrate. I've been so busy this month, taking one day at a time, that it wasn't until yesterday morning that I got my Christmas cookies baked! Around 6 pm Peder and his family arrived; Heidi, Chad and Brian arrived around 7 as they had driven up from Austin and were forced to drive the last 20+ miles going 20 - 40 miles due to traffic and low visibility from the falling snow.

Yes, we got more snow yesterday -- about 6 new inches. It had started around 2 pm and looked absolutely beautiful. So far this month, we have had over 17 inches of snow, and it was reported to be the "whitest" Christmas in over 50 years. More snow is predicted for Friday.

Back to Christmas, I got to see and hold Aurelia again. I hadn't seen her in over a month. She is changing so much - smiling now, and looking all around, and sitting up a little by herself. She even tried to vocalize when I was talking to her. She liked the lights of the Christmas tree and the fireplace. She is really darling.

Brian, my grand dog, was happy to see me again. He checked out the house, had a big drink of water, growled a little at Peppi, my canary, and sat on the floor by our table as we had our dinner. When he seemed to be a little too warm, Heidi let him out to my back yard. The snow was deep - up to his chest - and he loved it and didn't want to come inside. I'm sure it helped him to cool off.

Heidi spent the night with me and today we we out for lunch at a favorite restaurant and then shopped a bit. This evening we met my Aunt Liz, cousin Pat, my sister, Janet, and Chad and his parents at a restaurant near Stillwater. That was very enjoyable. And then we had to say farewell to Heidi, Chad and Brian. It was so nice to see them again.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Today being Christmas eve, I will be singing for three of the six services at church. The services celebrate the birth of Jesus and are lovely and inspirational. I'm happy I can be a part of them. Following the services, a few of my friends and I have been invited to a home of a fellow choir member for dinner. It promises to be a good time.

Tomorrow evening Peder, Sarah and Aurelia, Heidi, Chad, and my grand-dog Brian, will be coming over to celebrate Christmas with me. Hans and Rachel said they would call from Germany sometime tomorrow. I'm expecting another great time.

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Josiah and Annika

This afternoon I talked to Hans and Rachel on the phone. They had had a fun day in the Black Forest of Germany. Hans said he drove the car up to 135 mph on the autobahn. I'm so glad I wasn't in the car! Rachel said they were just moving with the flow of cars.

At one point, Rachel asked Annika if she wanted to say hi to me. Here's what Annika said, "Hello. How are you?" This is the most she has said to me over the phone. Then Rachel asked her to say thank you, in German, to which she replied, "danke." Rachel said she learned it today at a restaurant.

Then Rachel asked Josiah if he wanted to wish Grandma a Merry Christmas. He came to the phone and said, "Grandma, Santa came. Ho, ho, ho! Santa is here! Merry Christmas to you." It was adorable. Rachel told me Santa drove through the base yesterday riding on a fire truck. Josiah is old enough this year for it to make an impact. How fun! I'm so excited for them. But at the same time, I miss them.

Family Christmas

Yesterday I rode to Rochester with Heidi and Chad for our family Christmas get-together with Janet, Jerry, and Lynn and her family. It was so much fun seeing Heidi and Chad again. They both look great! The weather was a little "iffy" as we had rain and dropping temperatures in the morning, followed by heavy snow, so Peder, Sarah and Aurelia decided it wasn't wise to chance it. We missed having them along.

Janet and Lynn had prepared a delicious supper of home-made bread and home-made chicken noodle soup, plus lots of Christmas cookies and candies. We also had a wonderful plum pudding that Aunt Liz had made and sent along with me. Thank you, Aunt Liz. Chad's girlfriend, Katie, thought it was good. Heidi took a little bite of mine to see if her tastes had changed, and once again she didn't care for it. Bless her heart for trying it. That's okay. No matter how much people like their coffees and teas, I find them both to be distasteful.

We enjoyed a good time of visiting and opening gifts. It was great to see everyone again.

This morning I am home due to a furnace issue (it didn't want to operate). Since it is very cold here today [12 degrees with a windchill of -12, and snowing], I knew I had to get it taken care of as soon as possible. I phoned my utility company and they gave me a "window" of time for the repair man to come: 6:16 am - 3:30 pm. I would call that a "door" or "wall" of time. Anyway, he arrived at 8:45, removed the cover on the furnace, and immediately said it was dirty. He cleaned the carbon buildup from the igniting wire and some lint from a couple of other places, and said it should be just fine. He did some testing, and left. I was so happy it was a quick fix.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not Your Typical Office Party

You hear of office parties where individuals drink too much and get rowdy – that’s not the case where I work. First of all, we had a very nice dinner on the 6th of this month. It was held in a beautiful floral shop – the most well-known in the twin cities and the food served was French. Then today we had the party in our office building which consists of a potluck and games. There was a new twist this year, the vice president of our fiction department and the managing editor of our youth department rolled and baked lefse, so we were treated to lefse right off the griddle!
Just last Saturday my Aunt Liz gave me an English plum pudding to bring to the party– the recipe was my great-grandmother’s and has been in our family well over one hundred years. This morning before work I made the frothy vanilla sauce to accompany it and one of my co-workers – a designer – created labels to place next to my dishes. You see, many in our office are of Scandinavian descent, so I wasn’t sure they would know what plum pudding was. But one individual told me he hadn't had any plum pudding for 30 years - he said his mother used to make it every year. I was so pleased that every morsel of it was eaten! Way to go, Aunt Liz. It was a hit!
One of the games involved teams of 2 men who had to gift-wrap a telephone book with gift wrap, tape and ribbon – using only one hand – the left hand if the person is right handed. It was hilarious. The photo shown is my boss Paul (in the red shirt) wrapping with Alex. Our department lost the contest.
Only three more Christmas parties to go. I’m not sure I’m going to make it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

ANOTHER Christmas Party

L to R: Grandma, Katie, Rosy's mother, Rosy
Rosy is in the center, row one.

I had another Christmas party last night. This one was for the One by One program in which I tutor Rosy. The students as well as their family members were invited. Rosy brought her mother, grandmother, and little sister, Katie, who is 13 months old.

It was nice getting to sit down with Rosy's family - she being the translator. Her mother and grandmother understand some English; her grandmother speaks a few words in English - probably about as many words as I speak in Spanish! The menu was some sort of chicken burrito with various toppings and Christmas cookies. Knowing me, you already know that I ate before the party. My adventures in eating are mainly in the desserts department. Otherwise, I basically like American food: meat, potatoes, vegetables, and a few hotdishes.

The place was a-buzz with chatter, people seemed to be having a good time. Following the dinner, awards were given for perfect attendance and achievement. Then the children sang two Christmas carols in English: Joy to the World and Silent Night. Following that, the parents were invited to sing along with Silent Night, first in English and then in Spanish (the words were printed out for everyone). I thought it was just beautiful!

One part that thrilled me was the announcement that English was being offered to the mothers on Tuesday mornings. To my surprise, both Rosy's mother and grandmother signed up for the classes!

When it was time to go home, I hugged Rosy's family and wished them Feliz Navidad, to which her grandmother replied, "Feliz Navidad. Merry Christmas. Next year in English!" They are so sweet.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Fun Time with Rosy

This afternoon Rosy and I went to the Christmas Celebration at the church where I am volunteering as a tutor. I invited her a couple of weeks ago. I'm not sure she knew what to expect, but we lucked out getting seats in the first row, and she seemed to enjoy the entire program.

The concert consisted of the adult choir, children's choir, orchestra, and a drama team - a grandpa and granddaughter discussing what gift they were going to give to the baby Jesus, plus a live nativity. I enjoyed the music very much, and I think Rosy did too. But she seemed especially happy with the drama. The grandpa and the little girl were exceptional actors. I was very impressed with the baby who played Jesus. He was adorable, and acted the part perfectly. He was on the stage at least 30 minutes, and never fussed. At times he looked at Mary, and then at Joseph. They could have been his actual parents - I don't know - but they seemed at ease with him, often kissing him on the top of his head. The cutest part was seeing his bare feet sticking out from the blanket. I wish I would have remembered my camera.

The shepherds and Wise Men acted their parts right in front of us. Once again, I was so happy to have premium seats. One of the men playing a shepherd and a Wise Man is a tutor at the next door table from me. I don't think Rosy recognized him in his costume and makeup.

After the concert, we went out for pizza. Rosy likes pepperoni; I like beef. I gave her a Christmas Story book which she read to me while the pizza was baking. When I took her home, I got to see their nativity figures - a gorgeous Joseph, complete with a blanket over his shoulder, an angel, and Mary on a donkey. I asked when they add baby Jesus, and they told me on December 24. It is so interesting to learn about some of their customs. Rosy's family is very nice. I love their smiles. I'm looking forward to getting better acquainted with them tomorrow night at the family Christmas dinner for our tutoring program. Rosy turned in an RSVP for 7 people. I will be sitting at their table. Tonight I asked Rosy if she will help translate for me since I know very little Spanish. She smiled her beautiful smile and said, "yes."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Parties

Along with the concerts and pageants this past eight days, I have attended two wonderful Christmas parties (Yes, remember I said I have been busy! I haven't been home in the evening since Tuesday, December 4.).
The first was Sunday evening following our final Christmas concert. I was invited to dinner at the home of my friend, Nancy. It was a great time of fun and relaxation. The guests included some of my choir friends along with long-time friends of Nancy. The new acquaintances were interesting and provided fascinating conversation. The dinner was delicious! Also, it was fun to see her Christmas decorations.

Last night our knitting club held a Swedish smorgasbord at the home of one of the members. Each person wore a Christmas sweater and brought a Swedish dish. The menu looked something like this: Fruit Soup, Swedish meatballs, scalloped potatoes, rice pudding, herring (I stayed away from this), lefse, tack bread & cheese, beet pickles, Julbrod, krumcake, almond cake, Swedish Puff, lingonberry bread, peppercaker (ginger cookies) and Kristall Julmust (Swedish root beer). After dinner we voted for the prettiest and ugliest Christmas sweater. Mine was neither. Then we played a game with the white elephant gifts we brought, followed by singing a Swedish/Norwegian song. During the singing we got the giggles and laughed and laughed. It was another fun night!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Christmas Story

Tonight at tutoring Rosy read parts of the Christmas story from Isaiah and the Gospels. She needed help with some of the words, but she's only in first grade. I think she's doing very well. Each week she works on a memory verse. Again, she is doing very well. After we completed the Bible worksheet, I brought out a little cloth nativity set and a simple book about the Christmas story I bought to share with Josiah and Annika when they were here a couple of weeks ago. Rosy's eyes lit up. She was excited about touching the figures and used an illustration in the book for placing the figures just so. She told me there is a baby Jesus laying in straw at the church she attends.

I'm really enjoying our Monday nights together. She and the other children are very sweet.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Concerts

I'm sitting in my cottage, happy to be home at last. If I haven't been at work this past week, I've most likely been at church -- either rehearsing for our Christmas concerts, or performing in them. As our director says every year, "This one was the best one ever!" I agree.

I have been singing in our church choir almost 15 years. Thus I have sung in 15 Christmas concerts. Often there is one song I don't care for, but this year I loved every one. Some of the selections were Mary, Did You Know?; Song of Zechariah; Keep Your Lamps; A Cradle, a Cross, a Crown; and Christus Paradox (one of my favorites). But my most favorite of all was the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. I have been singing parts of this masterpiece since my high school days. Handel wrote the entire Messiah in 1741 in 24 straight days. Food was brought to him so he didn't have to stop writing. In many parts of the world, it is the accepted practice for the audience to stand for this section of the performance. Tradition has it that King George II rose to his feet at this point. As the first notes of the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus rang out, the king rose. Royal protocol has always demanded that whenever the monarch stands, so does everyone in the monarch's presence. Thus, the entire audience stood too, initiating a tradition that has lasted more than two centuries. Our audiences followed this tradition.

On Friday night, Rachel's parents and her aunt and uncle came to the performance. My cousin Diane and her husband Dave also came. I really appreciate it. It was really fun to see them again.

I'm happy that I could be part of this important program of our church. Many people attend who have never heard the true Christmas story before.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Good News from Hans

This afternoon I got an email from Hans saying they made it to Germany and all are doing well. He reported Josiah had spent all day throwing up, but was alright now.

They are 7 hours ahead of us, so this was written at 6 pm their time. They will be staying in a hotel until housing is available to them.

Thanks to all who have been thinking about and praying for them.

It appears we are going to have an old fashioned winter. We've had two significant snowfalls already in December and this morning the news said this is already being recorded as one the third snowiest Decembers on record.

Saturday we got about six inches where I live. Yesterday we received another four to five inches. We have snow predicted for tomorrow and again on Saturday and next Tuesday! The association where I live has hired a company that is very prompt and thorough with the snow removal - even blowing open the sidewalks during the night - which wakes me as they are just outside my bedroom windows! Oh well, they are just doing their job. I must admit, it is very pretty outside - so fresh and clean looking.

So far there is no news from Hans and Rachel. I'm assuming they made their 3 flights okay. I'll be certain to blog as soon as I know anything. Please continue to pray for them.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Heavy On My Mind

You know how it is when you can't get something or someone out of your mind? That's the situation I find myself in tonight. If you know me at all, you know that my kids (I know, I know - you're adults now, but I'm still your mother and I will always consider you to be "my kids") and their spouses and my grand children, are extremely important to me. There isn't a day when I don't pray for them. But this weekend has been a little tough, because Hans, Rachel, Josiah and Annika are moving to Germany tomorrow. Yes, I know it's only 5 or 6 hours further (by air) than Rhode Island, but I know I won't get to go there to see them as often as I have blessed to do while they have been out East. I talked to Hans again tonight, and he said Annika is feeling lots better. I'm so happy about that. Please keep them in your prayers tomorrow and Tuesday.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Day at Home

I have been pretty busy for the past couple of weeks, doing things I enjoy very much. But by last night, I was ready to collapse in my comfortable chair in my cottage and enjoy one of the many Christmas movies in my collection - Miracle on 34Th Street, 1994 edition. While watching the movie, I knit more on the little scarf I am making for Rosy for Christmas.

I slept 9 hours last night! That is somewhat of a record for me, but it felt so good to not have to wake to an alarm. Looking out the window, I noticed it was snowing - our first of the season. So far we have gotten about 5 inches. It looks like it may be done for now.

Except for going out to buy a newspaper, I have stayed home all day and have enjoyed it immensely. I've done my domestic chores, baked some cookies, talked to my 3 kids and darling Josiah, and also a few of my friends. I told Josiah it was snowing in my backyard and I wished he could come here so we could play in it. He said, "I'll go on a plane to Minnesota. I'll be there in a second." Then he gave the phone back to Hans. I heard Hans ask him why he was putting his shoes on. Isn't that darling?! Oh, I wish it was that simple. I miss him and Annika very much. And poor Annika isn't feeling well. She has been throwing up since yesterday. Oh, I hope she feels better very soon so she can make the flight to Germany easier on Monday.

Tonight I have the lights on my Christmas tree turned on. My snowman is lit, and I have put one of my Swedish candoliers in my cottage window. It's looking more "Christmasy" here now. I'm also watching Little Women, another one of my favorite movies to watch at this time of year.

Each December I have several movies that bring me enjoyment. Here are some of them:
  • Simon Birch
  • A Christmas Carol (Starring George C Scott)
  • An Affair to Remember
  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • Steel Magnolias
  • Serendipity
  • While You Were Sleeping
  • Desk Set
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
I may not get to watch all of them, or have time to listen to all of my Christmas Cd's, or play many of my Christmas pieces on my piano, but I will enjoy those for which I have time.

It's been such a nice day. . .